Monday, August 31, 2009

I'd Rather Have My Hands Full...

So it never fails--whenever I go out with the boys, someone always comments, "You've sure got your hands full." Most times I think they mean well, but sometimes their tone is more incredulous and sarcastic than kind and supportive at the sight of a mom with a four-year old, two-year old and ten-month old in tow.
A friend of mine has four boys, six and under. She's had people say things to her like, "Got enough kids there?", "Are you trying to repopulate the earth?" (she only has four here, people!), "You do know how this happens, don't you?" Another friend is mother to nine. She wants to make t-shirts that read, "Yes, they're all our's. Yes, we know how this happens. No, we're not Catholic. No, we're not Mormon. No, we're not done yet!"  The other day I read in an issue of Above Rubies,

"Out shopping with my five children aged six, four, two and newborn twins, a lady stopped and said, 'Looking at your family makes me feel sick to my stomach'"...
What has happened to society that children are seen as a destructive force to our planet, rather than one of the greatest blessings this planet holds? Last I checked, there are still enough resources to go around, especially if you're frugal with what you use. Souls that last for eternity come into the earth only one way--having children. I'd take my kids over plastic any day!
Sure there are plenty of days when I, too, feel like I "sure do have my hands full." Some moments, some days, are very trying. But my boys do add so much more to my life. When they say something, or think to do something that I never would have imagined, it brings such joy to my heart. Even in my best moments of creativity, I still couldn't invent such great people. But God did. And they are a blessing. So next time someone says to me, "You sure do have your hands full", I will respond with a smile, "Yes, and I'd rather have them full than empty!"
(Gratituesday is hosted by Laura at Heavenly Homemakers                                                                                                      

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Modern-Day Sabbath Rest

Aren't Sundays wonderful, really? You get to have a peaceful, relaxing, quiet morning with your husband and children, and then calmly get yourself and the kids ready, dressed in their Sunday best; the clothes stay crisp and clean through breakfast and everyone arrives early to church in great moods. What, this doesn't happen at your house? Oh wait, mine neither! But despite our shortcomings and the stress of getting there, attending a Bible-believing church and fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters in Christ always refreshes my Spirit.

While observing the Sabbath rest in its strict sense is no longer required since we are under grace, it is still a command of God and just in general, a good idea. You've probably come across studies that find taking time for leisure is good for your heart, good for your relationships, good for your mind, good for your spirit. God knew that. That's why He said, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work..." (Exodus 20:9,10) As Jesus Himself said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)

So the question I want to explore is--what does observing the Sabbath or taking a Sabbath rest look like in your home? As I write this, my husband is out mowing the lawn--definitely taboo according to the way I was raised. Many in my family of origin would never dare to eat out on a Sunday because that caused others to work. Movies, the mall? No way. Some friends said they couldn't even ride their bikes on Sundays. Hmmm....

Think of how often Jesus--the Fulfiller of the Law--offended the "experts of God's law" in his day. Those experts of the law are still around today, aren't they? You can't do this on Sunday, you can't do that. On the opposite extreme are those who fail to observe any kind of a Sabbath rest at all, and they miss out--their spirit misses out--because of it. (For the record, we ran to the mall and also out to eat after church today, but I didn't find it restful for my spirit at all and it won't be a common occurence in our family).

I read once that the Puritans worked hard to clean their houses and do all their meal preparations on Saturday so they could rest and enjoy the day Sunday. This appeals to me. Something rejuvenating happens in your spirit when you deliberately don't do what duty tells you to do. Like dishes:) But the freedom to enjoy the leisure comes because you know you are not being lazy; you have worked hard all week and you have earned the right to rest from your labor, and you know that God Himself ordains this rest and blesses it should you choose to observe it.

So how do you observe the Sabbath rest? Generally I try to go light on cooking and dishes (which I fall behind on during the week anyway!); I avoid doing laundry; I try not to go to the grocery store (although it would be convenient since my husband is home and I could go without kids, but there's Saturday, right?); I don't pick up the house much, which makes for a very messy Monday, but hey.

So what do we do with all that extra leisure time? We have time to have more extended phone conversations with our parents and siblings. We try to go for a bike ride or a family walk. Sometimes we take naps. (Usually this is interrupted or prevented altogether by the little people we call our children!) :) We can extend hospitality to those in need (sometimes even just listening and talking to a lonely neighbor who you may not have much time for during a busy week). I think the point Jesus made was to be sure to spend time with God. Worship. Read. Pray. Then spend time with others--your family, your friends, those who need your help. And don't forget to spend some solitary time refreshing your own spirit and fueling up in the Lord for your week ahead. I think taking a Sabbath rest is where you find that strength. (And the Holy Spirit refuels you throughout the week as you read God's Word and pray).

I'm done; it's your turn! I would love to hear what you do and don't do on the Sabbath, and why. Blessings for the week ahead!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mercy Me, My 'Mometer's Rising!

I know they say all kids do, but my boys really do the darndest things. Really. Think along the lines of Dennis the Menace, and we'll be in the ballpark. For example, my two year old has this thing about making up these "concoctions." He'll get a cup and put the weirdest combinations of things in it; then he'll stir it, pour it around, and try to drink it. He'll probably grow up to be a brilliant chemist, but right now, my kitchen table and my kitchen floor are keeping Bounty in business (which is probably a good thing during these tough economic times). Still that's just one of the many examples during the day. Do you know how hard it is to pack for a trip when a 10-month old (albeit an adorable one) is pulling everything out of the suitcase that you're putting in, and the two year old is wading up the neatly folded piles of clothes and stuffing them in the underwear compartment? Then the other day I found a screw pounded crookedly into the bathroom wall by four-year old hammer-bearing hands. Sometimes I feel like I am completely going to blow my top. Many times I actually do. I think it is especially hard to stay cool with little whirlwinds underfoot when I am trying really hard to get something done in my house so it does not look like it could receive an emergency disaster declaration.

If you've ever felt this way, too, I am so grateful that God's mercy is there to help us in our time of need. While anger in and of itself is not a sin, I do sin when I react in anger by yelling at my children and treating them harshly. Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, patience, kindness, and gentleness are (among others, I know). As James 3:2 states,

"We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check."

While the struggle with our words and reactions is natural, here's what God's mercy and grace are teaching me about remaining calm, loving and gentle in my spirit when I instead feel like I'm about to measure a 9 on the Richter scale:

  • First, breathe. Deeply. Slowly. Sounds silly, but the extra oxygen helps your brain think more clearly (and calmly).

  • Pray (usually for me, quickly!). Just a short and sweet prayer to ask for God's divine help in the situation.
  • Deliberately choose to surrender my tense spirit to the Holy Spirit, knowing that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. As a mortal mom, I could not break the pattern of responding to my challenges by becoming mean-spirited at times, but the Holy Spirit supplies what is lacking and allows me to handle the situation as I should.
  • Here's a biggie: Lower my voice. The softer I speak, the calmer I feel. One mom said she never yelled at her children (really never?!), because she purposed not to. It's a conscious decision, and we are strengthened to be able to master it because of God's grace and help--His mercy.

Growing perfect in love is a process, one not fully complete until we're in Christ's physical prescence. I will try to do better each day. But at the end of each day, may we take comfort remembering our struggles are part of the process of developing perserverance.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

--James 1:2-5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Moms in Need of Mercy...

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."--Hebrews 4:16

No matter what our situation in life, but particularly as stay-at-home mothers, we desperately need God's mercy (and in increasing measure with the number of children we have!). We need His help to get us through the challenges of each day. Sometimes, many times, we have days like I had today, where little people are clamoring and fighting, whining and sucking every last bit of marrow out of my bones, and I feel like I'm about to lose it all. Yes, of course, there were good times too, but many challenging times where I was pleading for God's mercy to help me hang on and try to be at least somewhat of a loving, kind and good mother. I think I failed. But so wonderfully encouraging is that God's mercy never fails and He promises us grace to start again and begin anew.
During naptime, I opened my Bible randomly--to 1 John 3 (not very random at all in God's sight!), which is all about love. It was just the reminder I needed from the Holy Spirit. It provided the mercy and grace I needed right then.
So about this little blog venture, I have been meaning to start writing for a very long time. I love writing and find it very cathartic....but with three boys ages four and under, finding the time to write consistently is difficult. Still I will try. I will share my journey and what I am learning along the way about how to grow in grace and excel in love in regards to mothering and homemaking. My hope is that along the way, you too will be encouraged and we can all learn together as we journey toward santification in Christ Jesus and thank Him for His great mercy and grace. For we are all moms in need of mercy and this mom's definitely in need of mercy.